The godfather moves on

As Ray Jewell retires after 35 years with Cathay Pacific, he advises his replacement Jansen Stafford about his new role as Regional Head of Cargo, Europe

Jansen, how are you looking forward to taking over from Ray?

J: The monumental task is taking over from someone who has been at Cathay Pacific for 35 years, 18 years in this role. He is described by colleagues as the “godfather of cargo”. That is pretty daunting. What I’m looking forward to is that this is such a diverse role. There’s a lot to it with a lot of in-depth information you need to know – it’s not just management, it’s visionary, it’s strategic, and set against a backdrop of the company moving into a new era of digitisation. What Ray is leaving me not only works, it is outstanding. So it is a challenge, but I’m up for it.

What is the one thing you would want to know from Ray on day one?

J: Well, the man’s well connected, so my first question for him is: who are the people I need to know in Europe from a customer and business perspective? That’s one thing I need to get from him.

Ray, what is the one thing you would tell Jansen?

R: Well to make sure that that the numbers are in place, of course! No, the first thing that I’d tell Jansen is that he is taking over a fantastic team, which has very strong relationships with our very professional customers in Europe, built up over many years of working together. Make use of the experience of the team and these good customer partnerships, and never feel embarrassed about asking for advice. They will be happy to help. I’m actually envious of you in many ways, because I think you will really enjoy it. There are challenges, ups and downs but it will be a great ride.

Looking back on your 18 years in Europe, Ray, what are you most proud of?

R: I’m clearly proud of the yield and load factors we have been able to achieve over many, many years, through our quality service and special product offering to our customers, even in periods of weak demand. Our challenges are numerous, so the results we have achieved as a region is something the team can be very proud of. The second thing is the teamwork. It’s like a well-oiled machine. It’s not always been easy because we have a lot of strong personalities, but I’ve got them to work together and not be defensive about anything. When I started there had been no one in my role, so people were naturally competing against each other. Now these guys have become friends and supportive of each other. And that is important because they are based close to each other and you could get into cross-border selling so quickly. A lot of the freighter flights are tagged with another country anyway, so there has to be cooperation.

J: They are a really strong unit.

You are no stranger to Europe, Jansen. What is your role been there?

J: I have been based in Madrid since August 2016 as Country Manager Spain. It’s a new country on the Cathay network and we started with four flights to Madrid a week. Since I’ve been there, we have been working hard on both the commercial and cargo side, and now we have five flights to Madrid and four to Barcelona. I am sure Ray would have seen the potential in Barcelona, particularly for pharma, perishables and auto parts. Arriving in a country that is starting up is interesting. The passenger side was always going to do well, but you could see the cargo potential and it was fun rolling up my sleeves and getting into that business, which is where we’re making the cream now.

Ray collects a token of appreciation for his service from Ronald Lam, Director Commercial and Cargo at his leaving celebration

How are the other routes in Europe performing?

R: We have opened up new passenger routes into Brussels, Copenhagen and Dublin this year. Those routes are full of good quality cargo and the numbers are bearing that out, with a lot of special shipments.

Although you have not worked together directly, have your paths crossed in the past?

J: I first came across Ray some years ago when I was based in Cambodia, and we were getting the freighter out there for the first time. I wanted to get some information about space control, so I got in touch. I needed advice from someone with a track record – so who else do you go to but Yoda?

R: I was referred to as the “godfather of cargo” at my leaving event, but Jansen refers to me as “Yoda”. I think he refers to himself as Hans Solo, though (laughter)…

What are you going to do now Ray?

R: I’m going to relax a little now. My wife is Italian and we have a little house in Italy, and we’re going to keep my apartment in Frankfurt. First on the list is sailing. We’re going to sail to Corsica, possibly as far south as Sardinia and put the anchor down and not worry about weighing it too much. Just as long as there is enough cold wine in the fridge, we’ll be fine.

How about you Jansen, where will you based?

I’ll be in the London office, based at Heathrow. Andrew Roe, Cargo Manager UK and Ireland is leaving his role at the end of September so I will be based with his team. The team doesn’t need my technical brilliance in the first instance, so I will be focusing on going out to meet the people I need to meet and building those relationships and that trust with customers, which is what Cathay is all about.

Ray is continental in that he is married an Italian, lives in Germany and speaks three languages. How important is that continental approach?

J: I have a trick up my sleeve in that regard – my wife is Dutch, her mum is Japanese and so she speaks seven languages. It means I don’t have to…

R: But actually, Jansen isn’t English, he speaks Spanish and that keeps the continental feel, which I think is important, and you’re going to spend quite a lot of time in Frankfurt. I feel we are in safe hands.

Ray Jewel Cathay Cargo
Ray and his wife Donatella.